Easy Dinner Parties: Artisan Pizza

How to throw a dinner party:

1. Mix some water, yeast, salt and flour together. Leave it in the bowl and let it rise up over night, until it’s a doughy, stringy, bubbly mass.

2. After 18 hours, peek at your massive bubble of dough. Wrestle it into six surprisingly pliable rounds of dough and dust them with flour before letting them rest.

3. Whirl some canned tomatoes with golden garlic and simple spices.

4. Dip, flour, dip and bread frozen string cheese in homemade breadcrumbs and herbs. Bake until melting but not oozing too seriously. Garnish a plate with herb-crusted cheese sticks and crackers.

5. Let your friends roll out the dough too thick and ladle saucy tomatoes on top. Throw ingredients liberally on top: three types of cheese, basil, peppers, tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms. Bake in a screaming hot oven for a hot ten minutes.

6. Toss a salad with juicy apples, a mountain of creamy avocado, chunky tomatoes, sweet craisins, olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper.

7. Sigh in awe as your friend hands you a pie she made, ready for the oven: the deep-dish mountain of spiced apples is contained by a butter, oat and flour mixture patted firmly down in a crust-y dome.

8. Eat everything in sight.

My roommate and I decided we’re going to have dinner parties every week. We kicked things off with a pizza dinner party.

The menu:

This was one of the easiest “dinner parties” I’ve ever thrown together. It was easier than some weeknight dinners I’ve made for myself. Time-consuming: yes, but if you space it out, it can be a super low-stress, cheap, fun way to feed your friends.


I followed the mozzarella sticks recipe for the most part, but I had to double the breading, made my own breadcrumbs and used a different brand of cheese (Kraft, I think) because I couldn’t find Sargento.

I followed this pizza dough recipe to almost a T, and you should too. It really is a fantastic pizza dough recipe. I added an extra 1/2 tsp of yeast because I was scared, but I doubt it made a big difference in the grand scheme of SEVEN AND A HALF CUPS OF FLOUR.

In the comments section of Smitten Kitchen’s tomato sauce that I’ve been eyeing for years, she noted that she often uses a simple pizza sauce–just canned San Marzano tomatoes, garlic heated in oil until golden, and a few spices. That’s what I based my sauce on.

If you don’t have an angelic friend to bring dessert, I think an apple crisp would be an easy dessert to prep ahead and stick in the oven while you eat dinner. Or you could try homemade gelato. Or tiramisu.

Italian Breadcrumbs

Did you know Italian breadcrumbs are super easy to make? Below is a guideline of what herbs you can use to make your own, but I read on multiple sites that you can pretty much add whatever. The parsley and cheese are key, though. This recipe is designed to make ten tablespoons of Italian breadcrumbs, but is easily scalable.

Slightly stale white bread (for panko-style) or wheat
1 teaspoon parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste

Toast bread slightly before grinding it into crumbs in the food processor (crunchy bread is way easier to deal with than slightly soft bread). Measure out ten tablespoons of breadcrumbs and combine with all other ingredients.

Super Easy Pizza Sauce

1 28 oz. jar peeled diced or whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
1 clove garlic
olive oil
oregano, to taste
sea salt, to taste

Fry the garlic clove in a tiny pool of olive oil over medium high heat until browned. Add garlic, tomatoes, a few shakes oregano and sea salt to a food processor and blend until smooth.

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18 thoughts on “Easy Dinner Parties: Artisan Pizza

    1. erika Post author

      Omg YOU MUST TRY IT. IT IS SO GOOD. I actually made Smitten Kitchen’s homemade pizza dough twice, I think, and was disappointed. This dough is definitely a winner, though. The only problem is that it makes so darn much (SIX PIZZAS!)! I would probably never make this recipe is it was just for me and my roommate…but before we planned the dinner party, I was eyeing Joy the Baker’s recipe, since she cut down Jim Lahey’s recipe to a two pizza portion. It only has to rise for 2 hours! (Which makes me skeptical that it’s as good. But it is less dough. So……) http://joythebaker.com/2012/08/no-knead-whole-wheat-pizza-with-corn-hatch-chili-bacon/

    1. erika Post author

      Thank you, Judy! :) It definitely was (delicious), although of course I was worried that everything would turn out burnt and somehow disastrous. Which was so silly, considering how easy it all was!

  1. Erica

    WOW! I wish I was invited! haha It is such a fun idea to do a weekly dinner party (I have so many hors d’oevre recipes saved on my pinterest board… I NEED to do this). The apple pie looks delicious, and the pizzas look great. Oh and that salad sounds so good too. Neddless tosay, I have pinned all of the recipes :)

    1. erika Post author

      Awww thank you!!! Yes I looooove dinner parties (which sounds way too frou frou and fancy for what our shindig was. But I can’t think of another term for it!). It’s the perfect excuse to indulge in cooking everything that I’ve been eyeing (aka a WHOLE bunch of food) and hang out with people I enjoy. Come on over to Houston! You’re officially invited to any future “dinner party.” (arg) :)

    1. erika Post author

      Haha yes! Will you have enough room in your house for all the people that will be stampeding to eat your delicious food? 😉

  2. Maria

    What a fantastic idea for a tasting party! So easy and you don’t have to worry about your friends who aren’t super cooking-inclined ruining them. Love it!


    1. erika Post author

      Thanks for reading, Maria! And so true–lucky me that everyone turned out to be awesome pizza crafters! Plus, that dough/sauce is so good, it would be hard to mess up!


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